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On November 24, 1992, the Queen gave a speech to mark her four decades on the throne. It was memorable for a phrase she used that is now in common parlance — ‘annus horribilis’, the Latin for ‘horrible year’. Pictured: The Queen at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday

On November 24, 1992, the Queen gave a speech to mark her four decades on the throne. It was memorable for a phrase she used that is now in common parlance — ‘annus horribilis’, the Latin for ‘horrible year’. Pictured: The Queen at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday

On November 24, 1992, the Queen gave a speech to mark her four decades on the throne. It was memorable for a phrase she used that is now in common parlance — ‘annus horribilis’, the Latin for ‘horrible year’.

She and her family had had to contend with Prince Andrew’s separation from Sarah Ferguson, Princess Anne’s divorce, the publication of Andrew Morton’s revelatory biography of Diana, exposing her disastrous marriage to the Prince of Wales (the couple’s separation would be announced the following month), and a devastating fire at Windsor Castle, later controversially repaired at a cost of tens of millions to the public purse.

With characteristic understatement, the Queen said it was ‘not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure’.

Yet I would argue that this year is proving even more ‘horrible’ than 1992.

Some of the Royal Family’s calamities in 2019 can be put down to bad luck; others to poor judgment. But at least one, however, is of such seriousness that, if it continues, I believe it could threaten the monarchy itself.

I mean, of course, the Duke of York’s association with the sex criminal and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail in the summer.

The damage done to ‘the Firm’ by the Duke’s disastrous interview on the BBC with Emily Maitlis cannot be underestimated.

It raises troubling questions about his reckless decision to agree to the interview in the first place — fevered discussion of Epstein had mostly died down — but also about who is advising the Royal Family and who is actually running the show.

One calamity is of such seriousness that, if it continues, I believe it could threaten the monarchy itself. I mean, of course, the Duke of York’s association with the sex criminal and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail in the summer, writes A. N. WILSON. Pictured: The Duke Of York with BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis

One calamity is of such seriousness that, if it continues, I believe it could threaten the monarchy itself. I mean, of course, the Duke of York’s association with the sex criminal and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail in the summer, writes A. N. WILSON. Pictured: The Duke Of York with BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis

First, let us look back at the other events of this royally disastrous year. It began with a car crash near Sandringham in January, in which the then 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh — far too elderly to be at the wheel of a car — was involved in a collision in which a woman broke her wrist, another was hospitalised, and a nine-month-old baby could very well have been killed.

Prince Philip, no doubt under legal advice, took a long time to apologise, amid mounting public anger. It was a sad event, because it underlined the frailty of the Duke who had bowed out of public life the previous August.

Imagine if that crash had been fatal. Suppose Philip had died or the infant had been killed. More than 60 years of devoted public service would have ended in ignominious tragedy.

Since that incident, almost every month has brought news to make a monarchist wince and for the Queen to bear.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had the potential use of splendid apartments at Kensington Palace following their wedding last year.

The bachelor Harry — a brave soldier in Afghanistan and the founder of the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel — was rightly regarded as an amiable figure by most of the public. Harry, Duke of Sussex, has been a rather different proposition. Pictured: Harry and Meghan during their ITV documentary

The bachelor Harry — a brave soldier in Afghanistan and the founder of the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel — was rightly regarded as an amiable figure by most of the public. Harry, Duke of Sussex, has been a rather different proposition. Pictured: Harry and Meghan during their ITV documentary

Yet rumours suggested that, as Meghan does not get on with the Duchess of Cambridge, Harry and his wife moved in the spring of this year to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor Great Park — refurbished at a cost of £2.4 million to the taxpayer.

In May, the joy surrounding the birth of their son Archie was tainted, in the public’s mind at least, by the secrecy surrounding it.

Then, last month, the couple travelled to Africa, and initially won plaudits for their engagement with the crowds and willingness to show off their son.

However, in an ill-judged ITV documentary made during the tour, Harry confirmed a ‘rift’ with his brother William — ‘we are on different paths’ — while Meghan lamented the difficulties of being a new wife and mother, saying she was merely ‘existing not living’. This overshadowed its success.

It did not escape notice that this privileged pair were complaining about their lot while visiting some of the poorest people on the planet.

Zara Tindall (centre), daughter of the Princess Royal, was revealed by the Mail this year to be in receipt of £100,000 annually for giving advice to Hong Kong millionaire Dr Johnny Hon (left), a generous fellow who, it further emerged, also paid the Duchess of York sums amounting to over £300,000

Zara Tindall (centre), daughter of the Princess Royal, was revealed by the Mail this year to be in receipt of £100,000 annually for giving advice to Hong Kong millionaire Dr Johnny Hon (left), a generous fellow who, it further emerged, also paid the Duchess of York sums amounting to over £300,000

Almost simultaneously, the couple launched their unwise war against Britain’s free Press, amid claims they had done so without seeking the advice of senior Royals.

The bachelor Harry — a brave soldier in Afghanistan and the founder of the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel — was rightly regarded as an amiable figure by most of the public. Harry, Duke of Sussex, has been a rather different proposition.

Having spurned the tradition of spending time in summer with the Queen at Balmoral — a holiday with Elton John in Nice travelling by private jet, however, did appeal — he has now let it be known that the Sussexes won’t be staying at Sandringham with the Queen over Christmas, either.

Instead, they will fly to America to spend Thanksgiving with his mother-in-law and take a break of six weeks.

They are far from the only offenders. Zara Tindall, daughter of the Princess Royal, was revealed by the Mail this year to be in receipt of £100,000 annually for giving advice to Hong Kong millionaire Dr Johnny Hon, a generous fellow who, it further emerged, also paid the Duchess of York sums amounting to over £300,000.

No crime or wrongdoing was committed in any of these cases, but the public was left wondering quite why members of the Royal Family felt entitled to such large sums of cash — particularly after we, the taxpayers, had paid large sums to police the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018.

At the very least these revelations threaten the good esteem in which the Monarchy is held.

It began with a car crash near Sandringham in January, in which the then 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh — far too elderly to be at the wheel of a car — was involved in a collision in which a woman broke her wrist, another was hospitalised, and a nine-month-old baby could very well have been killed, writes A. N. WILSON

It began with a car crash near Sandringham in January, in which the then 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh — far too elderly to be at the wheel of a car — was involved in a collision in which a woman broke her wrist, another was hospitalised, and a nine-month-old baby could very well have been killed, writes A. N. WILSON

Imagine if that crash had been fatal. Suppose Philip had died or the infant had been killed. More than 60 years of devoted public service would have ended in ignominious tragedy, writes royal biographer A. N. WILSON. Pictured: Prince Philip, 87, sitting in his car with Lady Brabourne

Imagine if that crash had been fatal. Suppose Philip had died or the infant had been killed. More than 60 years of devoted public service would have ended in ignominious tragedy, writes royal biographer A. N. WILSON. Pictured: Prince Philip, 87, sitting in his car with Lady Brabourne

All of these misdemeanours have been put in the shade by the troubles of the Duke of York.

Quite frankly, it is difficult to recall anything more scandalous in the history of the Royal Family in a generation. The Queen’s second son stands accused of having sex — which he emphatically denies — with Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre), hired some years ago by Epstein as an underage ‘sex slave’.

I will not reiterate the many jaw-dropping moments in his interview with Emily Maitlis except to say he appeared to have no sense of how his fraternising with a convicted paedophile and his defence of his actions would be perceived by the public.

Even if we take him at his word that he does not recall meeting Roberts, it was shocking to me that at no point did he express any sympathy for the young girls ensnared by Epstein into his revolting world. On the contrary, he said he was pleased to have known Epstein and found it ‘convenient’ to stay in his various houses, and was happy to have made new business associates via this friendship.

The Duke’s only fault, in his own eyes, was that he was too ‘honourable’. He clearly did not understand that simply being acquainted with someone such as Epstein shows a ruinous lack of judgment.

The Queen’s second son stands accused of having sex — which he emphatically denies — with Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre), hired some years ago by Epstein as an underage ‘sex slave’. Pictured: The Duke of York and Emily Maitlis

The Queen’s second son stands accused of having sex — which he emphatically denies — with Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre), hired some years ago by Epstein as an underage ‘sex slave’. Pictured: The Duke of York and Emily Maitlis

Just imagine if the Duke were later made to give evidence in a U.S. court, providing further details of his association with Epstein and perhaps being forced to concede that the photograph of him with his arm around the teenager’s waist was not, as Andrew’s ‘friends’ insist, a fake. Imagine such evidence being given in the same week as, let us say, Charles’s Coronation?

The scandal could fatally upend the public’s faith and trust in the Monarchy — a trust sustained in large part by enduring respect for the stalwart sense of duty displayed by our 93-year-old Queen.

In the 1930s, the Royal Family lived down accusations that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were sympathetic to Hitler. The Firm has survived adulteries and squirm-making public rows in the decades since.

This scandal is different. It seems likely that the Duke was simply too arrogant and naive to realise his TV fiasco would unleash fresh torrents of hostile reaction.

In the 1930s, the Royal Family lived down accusations that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were sympathetic to Hitler. The Firm has survived adulteries and squirm-making public rows in the decades since

In the 1930s, the Royal Family lived down accusations that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were sympathetic to Hitler. The Firm has survived adulteries and squirm-making public rows in the decades since 

And sure enough, along came Rohan Silva yesterday, a former Downing Street aide who describes himself as ‘a brown boy from Yorkshire’, to reveal that Andrew once told him: ‘You’ll never get anywhere by playing the white man’, and, ‘If you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile’.

Cue more denials from the Palace: denials, alas, that many will not believe. The Prince can now expect non-stop public denunciations, as more people come forward with examples of his tactless behaviour.

As a whole, of course, the country wants the Monarchy to continue. Republican pressure groups attract vanishingly few supporters.

The Prince of Wales has worked hard, through his Prince’s Trust and many other admirable schemes, to do good and improve the lives he touches. Together with the Queen, he has also done much to strengthen links with the Commonwealth.

Yet all this fine work could so easily be cast away. The trouble with royal credit is that, as the evidence of the years has shown, it can evaporate almost at once when some new scandal surfaces. Just remember how angry and hurt the public was, however unfairly, when ‘Buckingham Palace’ — that is, the Queen — was considered to be responding unsympathetically to the sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

It took years for the royal brand to be rebuilt, and now here we are again.

For me, one final factor truly makes this annus horribilis more horrible than the last and that is the plight of the Queen amid this turbulence.

With the Duke of Edinburgh — for so long the family disciplinarian — playing a less active role, and now without her former private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, who gave her such wise counsel, she is seen by some as being adrift.

With the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured) — for so long the family disciplinarian — playing a less active role, and now without her former private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, who gave her such wise counsel, the Queen is seen by some as being adrift

With the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured) — for so long the family disciplinarian — playing a less active role, and now without her former private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, who gave her such wise counsel, the Queen is seen by some as being adrift

Historically, this fate befalls constitutional monarchs who do not have good advisers at their side. Queen Victoria was saved from many a gaffe by her Private Secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby. Our Queen’s grandfather, George V, would never have weathered the storms in the constitution without Lord Stamfordham.

Both his son George VI and our present Queen were helped by the steadying common sense and Machiavellian shrewdness of Tommy Lascelles.

All these men saved the monarchs from their own worse faults — and were passionate monarchists, too.

It was a disaster when Geidt, the best secretary the Queen had, was ‘eased out’ in 2017.

The Prince of Wales’s team had objected to Geidt’s attempt to reduce the autonomy both of Charles’s court at Clarence House and William’s at Kensington Palace, instead ‘centralising’ operations.

Those of us who want the Monarchy to survive must hope the Royal Family will be visibly pared down as it embarks on a new decade. Its only members on public show should be the Queen, Charles and William and his family.

The rest should aim to keep a low profile: no more interviews, lawsuits, bids for public sympathy or dollops of cash from millionaires.

They should stand back and allow a damaged institution to be rebuilt.

If they fail to do so, we have every reason to fear for our continuing trust in an institution that defines the very essence of our nation. 

DailyMail Online


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